Doing it for the Fame, Fame
Neko Case performed at Amoeba for a free in-store. Since she’s been banned from the Grand Ole Opry, it’s come to this, baby! The immediate standout on Middle Cyclone is, of course, the Sparks cover. The album is low-keyed grower, with little in common with fellow NPR favorite Lucinda William’s recent embracing of her underground rock bar roots of AC-DC guitar textures.
Lady Gaga continues to push into the mainstream after making peace with former NYC high school classmate Paris Hilton, giving former Christian-pop singer Kate Perry French lesson, and being dissed by Christina Aguilera (who was accused of stealing her last CD cover look from Lady G. Her retort was, ‘’I don’t know who that person is. Is it a man?’’). Lady Gaga has already had two songs of her ‘’The Fame’’ debut CD in VH1’s Top 20 video countdown this year. See what happens after John Kilduff is hired to paint and mix drinks on a VH1 best of the year, new year’s party episode? Morrissey’s muscular, pub rock epic ‘’Years of Refusal’’ hit the virtual shelves of amazon.com. Producer Jerry Finn died unexpectedly in August after completing the album. He had updated the Moz band’s sound two albums earlier on ‘’You Are the Quarry,’’ bringing some of his Blink 182 production energy to that album. RIP, Mr. Finn. Travis Barker nearly died in his Lear Jet crash last year, too. Blink 182 reunited on the Grammy show that had Dave Grohl backing Paul McCartney. (Missed all of that though.) Space 15Twenty is showing the new Latino Morrissey fan documentary ‘’Passions Just Like Mine’’ by Director Kerri Koch tomorrow. Free popcorn, snacks, admission, and parking.
And all of last year’s good movies have come out all at once on DVD, so you still have to wait a few more weeks to see them. All of the quasi-art house films got Oscar nominations for something and the lines at those theatres were unbelievable right before the Academy Awards show. The Reader, The Wrestler, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire…if you had seen a couple or none and wanted to see another, it was not possible if you just showed up at the theatre. Too bad Mickey Rourke didn’t win his statue. Wall-E did!
Year Ends, Hope is on the Way
Reuse, reduce, recycle. John Kerry’s slogan from 2004 seems to have worked better the second time around. Maybe it was the messenger also? I spoke to the Obama ‘’Hope’’ poster artist at a Christmas party downtown. He was wearing a Joy Division T shirt, so I asked him if he’d seen the JD movie ‘’Control’’ by Anton Corbijn. He hadn’t, but I said it was worth seeing. At another Christmas party in a Schindler house, we found out that a friend will be directing the next ‘’Saw’’ installment in ’09 after previously working as editor on all the others. No secrets were revealed, but it seems to be a great scripting challenge when key characters have clearly killed off while attempting to live up to Argentoesque, giallo aesthetics.
Year Ends, Capitalism in Intensive Care
What a year! I made a $20 bet in July that if gas prices didn’t stop rising and hit $4.00 a gallon, Obama would win. I figured the oil industry would insure a McCain victory by increasing production so that prices would peak at $3.99 or less. Of course, this turned out to be incorrect. Gas never hit $ 4.00 a gallon during the summer, and Obama still won. The timing of the economic meltdown was the ‘’wild card’’ factor. For more than a decade, Noam Chomsky and Jello Biafra had been predicting an imminent global economic depression. (This was prior to the widespread international use of default credit swap slips or the massive U.S. deficit fueled by war spending and tax cuts.)
Year Coming to an End, Capitalism in Critical Condition
We got to perform at the Bergamont Station art opening for the unveiling of new works by the likes of David Hockney, Ed Moses, Robert Williams, Nick Lowe, and more than fifty others. The LA Weeky Biennial Some Paintings was curated by Doug Harvey. We provided the soundtrack as John Kilduff painted, ran on the treadmill, mixed drinks and spoke with the attendees.
Enjoyed this season’s Original Scarface: Jenufa with tortured soprano Karita Mattila. The Catholic overtones of Janacek’s story of jealous, violent love remain current. I continue to love Mozart’s limited use of the tenor. In Don Giovanni, the baritones get so much time and the tenors are mostly harmonizing, rarely singing alone for more than a minute. Bravo! Tristan und Isolde administered the yearly dose of Wagner with nice sets and feeble-voiced sailors. Juan Pons as Scarpia was the standout of Tosca. Next season starts a multi-year Ring Cycle, plus traditional favorites Carmen and The Magic Flute, and an opera version of The Fly —not featuring Jeff Goldblum.
Todd Haynes: I’m Not There
And neither is Beyonce. Early reports stated she would be portraying Bob Dylan in Haynes’ new film. Unfortunately, she may have become camera-shy after her career slump that resulted from playing second banana to that plus-sized American Idol diva in ‘’Dreamgirls.’’ Too bad. I think she would have been ideal in the biopic--re-enacting Dylan’s Strong Black Woman phase.
The film has a diverse cast (including Cate Blanchett) playing Dylan’s various career personae. In what threatens to be more of an allegorical mess than ‘’Velvet Goldmine,’’ Haynes may be the ideal director to illustrate Andy Warhol’s summary of Dylan’s appeal. In one of his ‘60s memoirs, Warhol recalled that the more Dylan said, ‘’I’m just me,’’ and tried to become inscrutable, the more America’s middle class party people replied, ‘’We’re just you, too.’’ And from the New York Times slideshow of movie stills, Haynes’ bearded Kid Rock/Lynyrd Skynyrd guy with Rolling Thunder Review face paint perfectly captures the phase that featured Mick Ronson playing lead guitar in his touring band.
God Bless Courtney Love
You can never be too rich or too thin, right? Those two things are hard enough to achieve, much less maintain. How about building a body of great work on top of that? How many celebrities will ever create anything even half equal to Ani DiFranco’s greatest hits or Jewel’s first folk album? Or world-class film work? Patti Smith was there before the rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr key got stuck in Olympia. And she’s still herrre.
Well, CL does not have to worry about her artistic legacy. If she had vanished after her Sympathy for the Record Industry 7 inch and ‘’Pretty on the Inside’’ albums, that’d been hard enough to top. Those alone put most of her former band-mates’ entire oeuvres to shame. Then there is ‘’Live Through This,’’ parts of ‘’America’s Sweetheart,’’ etc. She’s already proved herself as America’s Serge Gainsbourg of the harsh double-entendre battle cries. Not content to manage her estate from behind massive shades, she continues to live her live as a work of comb Artaudian ative living drama. And the ten-percenters who need her more than she needs them can only manipulate her musical decisions so much before being fired. So what if I want to go to Thailand and have a kidney taken out. Does that make my lyrics any better? Or worse?
Playing some of her new songs live in London recently, she defied their Smoking Ban--since the House of Lords can still smoke at work. And which profession needs it more, Her Majesty’s Parliament or rock musicians in the clubs? I remember our Associated Press was waiting for the French train riots to erupt when their smoking ban went into effect. But they started by issuing warnings to the defiant riders. Explaining their ‘ease-in approach,’ their government spokesman said, ‘’To rush the French would be absurd.’’ Likewise, to rush Ms. Love is also. All things worthwhile take some time. And to paraphrase Bukowski’s remark about projecting his own persona: She’s always the heroine of her own tales.
Jim Morrison is Dead. Long Live Jim Morrison! The End
Forty years after the Summer of Love, the ‘’true story’’ of how Jim Morrison died is finally coming out according to rock biographer Sam Bernet. In his book, published in France this summer, Bernet claims Jim died in the restroom of the Paris club where he was employed called Rock ‘n’Roll Circus . Morrison had apparently bought heroin from two dealers there who hauled him back to his apartment and placed him in his bath--already dead--after he had overdosed in the club. This contradicts the official version of events and the statement given to police by Pamela Courson who died of an overdose in 1974, and therefore couldn’t be reached for comment.
His music lives on: Riders on the Storm are at the top of the bill for the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love . Ray, Robbie and the singer from Fuel will be playing the old classics as well as new songs, according to Manzarek. Drummer Ty Dennis continues, though Ian Astbury left. (This could be the debut of new 'Doors' music since the scrapped Astbury songs seem now to be lost to the ages. Ciao baby, etc.) Near the top of the bill are the cast from Rockstar Supernova, billed above Big Brother and the Holding Company, who, in turn, are billed above Nor Cal‘s favorite Byrds tribute band. The Grateful Dead‘s keyboardist who was not Pigpen or Bruce Hornsby is also playing a set at the three day, multi-stage festival. Though they were such a big part of the Woodstock Anniversary celebration, Limp Bizkit are not on the bill.
You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin
Tammy Faye Bakker gave up the Holy Ghost after one final interview with Larry King, weighing just sixty-five pounds. He cancer had metastasized. Tattooed preacher son, Jay, will carry on her unconventional evangelical legacy running Revolution, his ''anti-megachurch.'' His canceled reality show will likely remain TiVoed on dozens of thousands of Good Charlotte fans' hard disks.
As Bible College dropouts, she and ex-husband, Jim Bakker, helped build the televangelical empires of Pat Robertson's CBN and Trinity Broadcasting Network with their charisma, passion and musical/comedy chemistry. They later built their PTL broadcast network fortune which crumbled amid Federal fraud investigations, cementing her mascaraed legacy in the Reaganomics era, adding ''air-conditioned dog house'' to the list which includes S&L debacle and the movie line, ''Greed is good.'' Her second husband also went to prison--on a bankruptcy fraud conviction.
Going against the grain of Pentecostal traditions (make-up wearing, cosmetic surgery), she embraced the gay community soon after Jim began serving his Federal prison sentence. A survivor (like Beyonce and Tina Turner), she bounced back as a sympathetic documentary subject ("The Eyes of Tammy Bakker'') and later as a talk show host and reality television personality.
Rest in Peace, Miss Tammy.
Yale Creative Writing Professor Denigrates Bloggers
Anne Fadiman's latest book venerates ''Familiar Essay'' masters Charles Lamb, Coleridge—and indirectly, herself. In the Times, she describes the form as an intersection of the writer's personal point of view and the world at large. I half fancied myself as a huffy Matt Drudge after hearing her interview on National Public Radio. When asked if today's bloggers were revitalizing the moribund tradition of the familiar essay, she answered the ''All Things Considered'' interviewer, ''no.'' That is, today's typical blogger falls short of the the criteria of being deemed a Familiar Essay Writer. Another feeble attempt by the literary and media elites to beat back the free-market success of half-baked ideas!
A work associate of mine--who graduated from Yale in creative writing--initially failed the writing portion of the basic skills test required to enter the program we went through together. We came out of the sausage grinder with identical completion profiles. He probably never wrote papers on De Quincey, Coleridge and the intersection of writing talent and opium in New Haven though.
The Return of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Coachella Festival
I'm really excited about the JMC show at Coachella this Friday. It's been almost a decade since they played. Some of the new solo songs that the former Mr. Lazycame has been working on for hundreds of hours in the studio over the past couple of years might hopefully be the core of the next, great Jesus and Mary Chain album. (Someone who has heard them gives me hope of this.) There might even be a song about American Life and Anna Nicole Smith that has yet to be written that rivals ''The Hardest Walk.'' We're keeping our fingers crossed.
Happy Easter, Have a Drink
Last year, I couldn't stick to my beer fast during Lent, since St. Patrick's Day fell on Friday and someone bought me six Kronnenbourg 1664s (long since my favorite ever since a waitress laughed at me when I ordered ''une demi-tasse de Cronenberg.''). This year, I tried for the complete 40 days without drinking and I made it through. I more or less lost my ''wine gut'' too.
Jarvis Cocker to Replace John Peel?
Pitchfork says that Jarvis Cocker may be the only person who could take up John Peel's BBC mantle. For now, he's curating this year's Meltdown Festival and promoting his first, post-Pulp solo album. (Scott Walker produced the Pulp swan song.) Living in France and ferrying back and forth to Blighty, he's been leading panel discussions on the importance of music, iPods, the underground scenes, etc. It's good to have him back for a whole CD.
Thank You for your Generous Donation
So I saw five operas this season from the ''handrail obstructed'' sections. But in the words of Ian Curtis, ''They keep calling me.'' They want me to make a donation (because tickets do not cover the costs, etc.). Like Andy Warhol said, why pretend you are poor like the trust-fund slackers? It's much more fun to pretend you're rich. So, finally, I donated $1,200 on my Discover Card, the card that gives you back. Now I'll be listed in one-point type on the donors page of the L.A. Opera production of ''Porgy and Bess'' program.
Benjamin Britten's opera version of the miracle play, ''Noah's Flood,'' from the 1500s was presented at the L.A. Cathedral. It was introduced by Cardinal Mahony. With the history of Britten's star tenor Peter Pears and the recent controversial biographies, I was half expecting SNAP to be picketing the performance. God supplied rain.
The skeleton crew of opera and orchestra professionals augmented by community performers—children's choir and a high school orchestra—executed the program despite the cement airplane-hanger acoustics of the massive Our Lady of the Angels. New conductor James Conlon energetically rehearsed the audience in the three hymn sections that were to be sung and then he let her rip. The tale of Noah's Ark was easy to follow and very well sung by the tenor, Jason Stearns. The community-theatre sets were true to Brittan's arts-cutback era of post-war England. This fit well with America's perpetual, arts-cutback aesthetic. Even public schools have Catholic School-like candy fundraisers at Easter.
Thank You for your Generous Donation